Skip to main content

Capp Street has barricades to deter sex work. It’s not going according to plan

Looking southwest at Capp and 21st streets reveals overturned barriers meant to deter sex work. | The Standard

Love wins, as they say. But sometimes, it’s lust that claims victory. 

Ahead of the weekend before Valentine’s Day, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) attempted to put the kibosh on sex work on Capp Street in the Mission. In response to neighbor complaints about an increase in intimate connections and associated traffic and property crime, the transit agency installed signage and sandbag-weighted barricades between 19th and 23rd streets

This driver-based abstinence program does not appear to be going to plan. When the Standard walked along the quasi-closed off length of Capp Street on Friday night, cars were easily able to evade the signs, with a number of cars bypassing the barricades in rapid succession. By day, some signs have clearly been overturned as well—although that could be because of antsy drivers, blustery weather or both.

At least some of these cars could belong to residents, however. A motorcycle unit from the San Francisco Police Department was supposed to maintain a presence on Capp to facilitate this transition, but they do not appear to be out in strong numbers.

Drivers are clearly able to evade these sandbag-weighted barriers, as seen in this early morning image shot on Feb. 12. | Peter-Astrid Kane/The Standard

A wide residential and light-industrial street one block to the east of the nightlife-heavy Mission Street corridor, Capp is something of a logical choice for sex workers and their johns—who, in spite of any recent uptick, have been there for decades. In spite of the cold, South Van Ness Avenue and Shotwell Street have also seen a pronounced nighttime increase in provocatively dressed women, which suggests that even if Capp were successfully sealed off to amorous traffic, more of the trade would simply migrate a block or two over.

Sex work is called the World’s Oldest Profession for a reason. You can’t necessarily curb certain innate human desires, not even by making drivers hug the curb. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the area, stated that she supports the decriminalization of sex work and hopes to find a more suitable zone for these activities to take place.